Thunder: Feb. 2 at Cleveland. Why? OKC was one of the league’s best teams on the road last year, but this game concludes a monster stretch for any team not built by USA Basketball. The Cavaliers game is the 12th road game in a 15-game stretch that dates back to Jan. 6 in Toronto. Of note will be how rookie Perry Jones III and Summer League stud Reggie Jackson fare during this stretch, when their minutes should go up as the starters’ fatigue does, too.
Nuggets: March 13 vs. the Knicks. Why? This game has been circled many places already, but Carmelo Anthony‘s first game back in Denver will be an event not to miss. If it once seemed like Denver fans would be out for blood, it now seems more likely they’re pretty happy with their side of the deal after making the playoffs the last two years without him. Still, don’t doubt the cathartic effect it could have in the Mile High.
Trail Blazers: Nov. 23 vs. Minnesota. Why? Brandon Roy returns to the city that adored him. Look for tears to flow like craft beer in the Rose City.
Timberwolves: Feb. 1 vs. Lakers. Why? If you like rebounding, you’ll want to watch Andrew Bynum go against Kevin Love. Both guys could get 20 boards that night. Also, if Andrei Kirilenko and Metta World Peace get to guard each other, that’s enough compressed weirdness that something interesting could happen.
Jazz: Feb. 12 vs. Oklahoma City. Why? The Jazz have a frontline worth watching with Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and now a long three in Marvin Williams. It’s a chance to measure up near the league’s halfway mark against likely the division leader.
Kings: April 17 vs. Clippers. Why? Is the final game of the season also the last home game for the Kings ever in Sacramento? On the basketball side, it gives another matchup between DeMarcus Cousins and Blake Griffin, whose minor tiff livened up the series last year.
Lakers: April 7 at Clippers. Why? Most any game the Lakers play against the big teams is one to watch, but the cross-town blood feuds with LAC have been so memorable in the last year that it’s a de facto top game.
Clippers: Nov. 14 vs. Miami. Why? It’s one of the Clips’ once-unheard of 30 nationally televised games and an early chance to see both how healthy Griffin is and Chris Paul face Dwyane Wade.
Suns: Jan. 30 vs. Lakers. Why? Steve Nash returns to Phoenix. What else do you want to know? (Well, it’s also one of three back-to-backs that month for L.A.)
Warriors: March 2 at Philadelphia. Why? The trip the Philly marks the end of a stretch where 14 of the W’s 19 games are on the road. While this Warriors team could find itself well out of playoff contention before the Jan. 25 beginning of the stretch, the end mark will either confirm or upset what we thought we knew about this team.
Spurs: Feb. 24 at Phoenix. Why? This game marks the end of the team’s annual Rodeo Road Trip, which will be a litmus test for this team’s viability for a stretch run. Gregg Popovich traditionally uses the RRT to set his team’s lineup for the rest of the season, and this game will mark the end of the nine-game road trip.
Rockets: Nov. 18 at the Lakers. Why: Kobe Bryant isn’t deluded to consider Jeremy Lin a true rival, and yet his competitive streak will compel him to atone for Lin’s 38-point night last year in New York that blew Lin’s stock up. This time, Kobe gets Lin on his home turf.
Mavericks: March 20 vs. Brooklyn. Why? The team whose offer Deron Williams passed on (Dallas) gets its first home game against the winner of the Williams sweepstakes. Don’t forget it’s just a short drive from Williams’ hometown, too.
Grizzlies: Oct. 31 at L.A. Clippers. Why? The rematch of last year’s back-and-forth playoff series is also a matchup between Chris Paul and Mike Conley, who’s proven his doubters wrong in the last two years about the worth of his second contract.
Hornets: Nov. 26 at L.A. Clippers. Why? The first meeting between No. 1 pick Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin has a two-prong storyline: 1) Davis got an Olympic spot because of Griffin’s knee injury, and 2) if Griffin’s healthy, how many times will he try to dunk on his fellow top pick?
What are you excited for?
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